On many occasions I have stood in front of a room full of people and asked everyone who thinks of themselves as a leader to raise their hands. Consistently, whether adults or youth, only about ten percent of the audience lift their arms. Perhaps so few are willing to self-proclaim the title of leader because they are afraid I will call on them with a follow-up question? Alternatively, I suspect folks genuinely don’t see themselves as leaders because our society has inadvertently inflated the term leadership to mean something that only few can ever attain.
This article is instead based on the premise that leadership is simply filling the appropriate role to help a group achieve a specific goal, and that each and every one of us has the capacity to lead.
While there are myriad indoor based learning opportunities for aspiring leaders where one listens to the instructor, takes feverish notes, does some reflecting, and then practices a specific skill, I believe the most top-notch and effective leaders are at least partially nurtured in the outdoors.
There are thousands of resources available about effective leadership, outdoor and otherwise. In fact, if you type “leadership elements” in to Google you receive about 245,000,000 results in 0.56 seconds. Having taught a fair amount of outdoor recreation, leadership, and outdoor leadership over the past fifteen years, I have come up with my own list of essential attributes for being a virtuous leader. Whether on a wilderness expedition, in the business board room, or any other capacity, these abilities position one for leadership success.
• Think before taking action and/or reacting
• Self-worth (a combination of being grounded and having confidence)
• Lead by example
• Follow through
• Diverse communication skills
Spending time recreating in the backcountry equips people with these skills without them even realizing it. Whether it’s human-powered or motorized, no matter the season, every outdoor recreation endeavor inadvertently teaches these characteristics that then translate to real-life behaviors.
Working for a community-centric organization rewards one with tremendous opportunities for warm fuzzies. However, one of the most cup-filling aspects of my job at the Center for a Vital Community is getting to program a leadership camp in the Bighorn Mountains that is rich with outdoor recreation opportunities.
In 2008 the CVC joined forces with the YMCA to create the first CampFIRE, youth leadership camp, for local 8th grade students. Youth from Sheridan and Johnson Counties have attended for free every year since through the exceptionally generous support of a local family foundation.
We are thrilled to be offering CampFIRE again this June 11-14 at The YMCA of the Bighorns Camp Roberts. Not only do students learn foundational leadership principles, they get many fun outdoor experiences that augment their learning.
The application deadline is just nine days away, if you know a graduating 8th grader, please send them our way www.sheridancvc.org/campfire.
Julie Greer is a member of the Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources Commission.